Use of Phthalates in Personal Care Products


OTTAWA, Canada—Phthalates are multifunctional chemicals used in a variety of cosmetic and personal care products. A new Canadian study sought to determine phthalate levels in cosmetic and personal care products obtained from the Canadian market (Environ Res. 2011;111(3):329-36). Interestingly, diethyl phthalate (DEP) was detected in almost all personal care products surveyed, with the highest amounts detected in fragrance. Phthalates have been linked to a decrease in mental and motor development in children. Many personal care manufacturers stay clear of using phthalates due to their adverse health associations.

In the current study, 252 products, including 98 baby care products were collected at retail stores in several provinces across Canada in year 2007. These products included fragrances, hair care products (hair sprays, mousses and gels), deodorants (including antiperspirants), nail polishes, lotions (body lotions and body creams), skin cleansers and baby products (oils, lotions, shampoos and diaper creams). Samples were extracted with different organic solvents, depending on the types of the products, followed by gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC–MS) analysis. Of the 18 investigated phthalates, diethyl phthalate (DEP), dimethyl phthalate (DMP), diisobutyl phthalate (DiBP), di-n-butyl phthalate (DnBP) and di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP) were detected. The detection frequencies were in the following order: DEP (103 out of 252 products), DnBP (15/252), DiBP (9/252), DEHP (8/252) and DMP (1/252).

DEP was detected in almost all types of surveyed products with the highest levels (25,542 μg/g, equal to 2.6 percent) found in fragrances. DnBP was largely present in nail polish products with the highest concentration of 24,304 μg/g (2.4 percent). DnBP was also found in other products such as hair sprays, hair mousses, skin cleansers and baby shampoos at much lower concentrations (36 μg/g and less). Levels of other detected phthalates were generally low in the products.

Based on these values, daily dermal exposure dosage to five phthalates was estimated for three age groups, female adults (60 kg); toddlers (0.5 to 4 years) and infants (0 to 6 months), through the use of cosmetic and personal care products. The exposure estimation, however, was based on existing products use pattern data, instead of probabilistic model-based population use distribution. For female adults, the maximal daily exposure of 78 μg/kg bw/d was determined for DEP. The maximal daily exposure was much lower for the other four phthalates (DEHP, 0.82 μg/kg bw/d; DnBP, 0.36 μg/kg bw/d; and DMP, 0.03 μg/kg bw/d). The exposure for DiBP was not calculated due to its very low levels (less than10 μg/g) in products. Toddlers and infants in this case had a maximal daily exposure to DEP of 20 and 42 μg/kg bw/d, respectively.